How and when to catch the Northeast’s fall foliage

The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting an early and abbreviated season for viewing colorful foliage this autumn in the Northeast.
The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting an early and abbreviated season for viewing colorful foliage this autumn in the Northeast. Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing

The countdown is on.

With fall’s arrival comes countless predictions of when the Northeastern U.S. will begin its kaleidoscopic display of colors, and this year is no different. Except that, well, it is.

For one thing, a dry summer has experts predicting a particularly short leaf-peeping season, with an early onset and slightly less vivid colorations. If the Farmer’s Almanac is to be trusted, New England and the Mid-Atlantic will start to glow in shades of amber and bronze in less than two weeks, sending locals on leaf-peeping frenzies from Maryland to Maine. But the almanac works on long-range, annual predictions, so it’ll be more essential than ever to consult local foliage forecasts to guarantee a good show.

If you do hit the road to find those brilliant colors, you might consider skipping the traditional sweet-as-honey bed and breakfasts of New England, where the windows are draped in paisley and meals are served over vintage lace runners. This year, nearly a dozen new high-end hotels in the area blend modern design and amenities with technicolor surrounds.

Here, the best of the newcomers, along with Farmer’s Almanac predictions on when the autumnal displays will be brightest this year.


The hotel: Eastaway

The location: Woodstock

The peak season: Oct. 5-14

This minimalist estate by interior designer Suzanne Donegan is designed from the ground up to maximize its views of the Green Mountains. Whether you stay in one of four bedrooms in the main house or one of three in the guest cottage (buyouts start at $1,500), you’ll get floor-to-ceiling gabled windows, vaulted ceilings, and access to miles of private biking and hiking trails. Resist the urge to hole up, though: Woodstock is a booming Vermont town, with a Main Street that looks plucked from a cheery Christmas film and restaurants such as Worthy Kitchen that show off the state’s raved-about microbrew offerings.

The hotel: The Taconic

The location: Manchester

The peak season: Oct. 5-14

In the southwest corner of Vermont, a stone’s throw from Stratton Mountain, Kimpton has opened one of its most sophisticated properties to date. Its 87 rooms blend country cottage and New England prep design vernaculars, with deep claw foot tubs and en suite fireplaces that you wouldn’t expect from the contemporary, four-star brand. Another nice surprise: three separate (pet-friendly) cottages surrounding the main house, two dating to the 1840s, for an even more private escape.


The hotel: The Merchant

The location: Salem

The peak season: Oct. 12-28

The Lark Hotels group is known for creating whimsical, modern inns with punches of color at every turn. Its Salem opening, the Merchant, is no exception. The parlor is decked out in peacock blue; rooms have varying patterns of wallpaper behind headboards and on ceilings; and outdoor sitting areas are piled high with bright coral throw pillows. Book into the George Washington suite (from $199), where the country’s first president actually slept in 1789, fresh off his electoral win. It has a gas fireplace and original carved wood details by the 18th-century architect Samuel McIntire.

New York

The hotel: Hasbrouck House

The location: Stone Ridge (Hudson Valley)

The peak season: Sept. 28-Oct. 28

This 1757 stone mansion looks as though it could have been transplanted from the English countryside, but the Dutch colonial build is all New York. Newly restored by a Brooklyn-based developer, it’s set on 55 acres with a 50-foot pool, an ice skating rink (come winter), and a fire pit for nightly bonfires. The restaurant, Butterfield, has a menu by Shawn Burnette, who trained under April Bloomfield at the Breslin and has restored the property’s original smokehouse. As for the rooms: Expect natural colors, subtle gold accents, goose down bedding, and spacious marble showers (from $275).

The hotel: Scribner’s Lodge

The location: Hunter (the Catskills)

The peak season: Sept. 28-Oct. 28

It’ll only be soft-open during the peak foliage month of October, but Scribner’s is set to raise the style standard for lodges in the Catskills when it opens officially on Nov. 11. Like Hasbrouck House, its 38 rooms (from $430) – set three hours north of New York City – are a seamless extension of Brooklyn living, with a white-on-white aesthetic that’s punched up by exposed stonework, dark-stained maple floors, and vintage boho rugs. The property has also brought up a Brooklyn-based restaurant team, Matt Ricke and Adam Volk – from Greenpoint’s Esme and Williamburg’s Exley – to create a Swiss, après ski-inspired menu that borrows from the Hudson Valley’s bounty.

The hotel: Grove Lodge at Mohonk Mountain

The location: New Paltz (Hudson Valley)

The peak season: Sept. 28-Oct. 28

Maybe you’re already in on the secret that a 147-year-old Victorian castle on a Hudson Valley mountain has a killer spa and its own stables. But you probably don’t know that this year, the landmarked property is opening its first new accommodations in 100 years. The six all-inclusive rooms that make up the Grove Lodge (from $1,090) – all with double-height ceilings, stone fireplaces, and Frette linens – can be booked individually or as a whole. There are rocking chairs on the patio and Gilchrist & Soames amenities in the bathroom – in other words, it’s just the right combo of traditional and contemporary.


The hotel: Spicer Mansion

The location: Mystic

The peak season: Oct. 12-28

No kids under 12 are allowed at this eight-room historic home – named for its former owner, Capt. Elihu Spicer – in the stunning seaside village of Mystic. After all, this house was built for entertaining, with sitting rooms and salons filling the bulk of its first floor. Thanks to a stem-to-stern renovation that culminated in May, the property is ready for a new generation of guests – it has added a fleet of BMW 750i’s to shuttle guests to and from the train station, picnic service for those who want to stroll its sprawling gardens, and ultra-soft Matouk linens in the bedrooms (from $430). For views of leaves changing color, you’ll want to drive a bit away from the coast and into the rolling hills of Connecticut.